Agile Transformations Need Leadership Everywhere!

In Agile organizations and teams, we continue to teach the importance of emphasizing leadership over management and teamwork over individual accomplishment.  My question today is what intentional actions are we taking to achieve this vital goal?

From my vantage point, the answer is simple.  We should create an environment in which every person should have a chance to lead in some way, every day. Further, we should be taking actions to encourage continuous leadership behavior by every team member.  Great ideas and leadership behaviors are not the exclusive property of Sr. Management and, in mature Agile organizations, there is an evolution of team member leadership responsibility.

When I was receiving coaching myself, it was pointed out that admired leaders begin with a “Team First” mentality of which some attributes are:

     • We before me

    • Culture of innovation

    • Empowerment of everyone

    • Obsession with client success

Based on that, our team built a “Leadership Compass” to help depict our Leadership North Star.

These attributes have rung true with me for some time now and seem to resonate with other leaders as well. 

One way to develop great leadership skills is to model our behavior after leaders who are widely admired.  These are people who find a way to bring the best version of themselves daily and continually develop leadership characteristics in everyone around them.  One incredible leader I worked with previously was terrific at finding ways to deliver feedback in a constructive and humble way. In fact, she was the single best relationship builder I have ever met.  She always found time to mentor anyone who sought her advice.  I was continually amazed at her ability to balance an incredible workload, family life and still find time to help many of us reach our maximum potential.  She demonstrated, at the center of great leadership is a deep caring for people and the extension of trust.  From her behavior, I came to learn that leading is not something that is assigned– it is earned and continually learned!

In highly effective organizations, everyone needs to lead regularly.  That leadership can come in many forms. It can come from sharing knowledge and information or from setting a great example of teamwork or simply extending trust.  Another lesson I learned from a mentor of mine is learning to lead through influence and motivation is a much more powerful form of leadership than being appointed.  When we are appointed, people in our teams may feel obligated to agree with us and to pursue our agenda, even if they disagree.  When there is no direct report correlation, we need to find other ways to connect, influence, and motivate.  Leading through influence causes us to appreciate everyone’s point of view and empowerment. By leveraging all team members’ strengths to develop better solutions, everyone gets better and we as leaders learn to become force multipliers.  

One last view of leadership behavior I respect considerably comes from my past at a leading Financial Services firm where we were asked to model the following behaviors.  Ask yourselves if you demonstrate these approaches:

  • Be obsessed with what is best for the Customer
  • Tell it like it is and hear it as intended
  • Value pace over perfection and encourage risk-taking
  • Create an environment in which people can reach their maximum potential
  • Empower team decision making
  • Think and works across the company
  • Own the Outcome

An example of some phenomenal behavior to be modeled is from Naval Commander David Marquet.  I find his story to be one of leadership courage while building an environment in which leadership occurred every day amongst everyone. Check out David here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqmdLcyES_Q

Finally, the ultimate focus of great leadership is to create an environment in which team’s and team members can achieve their maximum potential. What better way to demonstrate that but to encourage Leadership Everywhere!